More children will die if we don't act now, says suicide victim's dad
THE father of Ciara Pugsley, the schoolgirl who took her own life after being bullied online, said he is convinced more lives will be lost because authorities are not moving fast enough to tackle the scourge of bullying.
Jonathan Pugsley called for an open and honest conversation on bullying, saying that for too long it has been swept under the carpet.
However, he said that since the death of his 15-year-old daughter, and a spate of suicides among other young teenagers, the scale of the problem can no longer be ignored by the Government.
"We've done nothing about it. We denied it so I think there's bound to be more (suicides). There's no way around it because we're not doing things fast enough.
"Hopefully it will be a lot less than there has been, but I'm convinced there will be more," he warned.
Mr Pugsley was speaking to the Irish Independent at a briefing session in Dublin for the National Anti-Bullying Coalition's (NABC) 'OK Kids' programme, which gives schools strategies for combating bullying. A pilot project will be rolled out in Roscommon shortly.
He believes that most parents do not appreciate just how widespread bullying is in their communities.
"Unfortunately, in certain circumstances, it leads to suicide and that's obviously why I'm here, and I want to try and make it better for other people.
"But since Ciara's tragic death, it's a massive, massive problem. . . you can't deny that any more. It's a huge problem and we're just sweeping it under the carpet at the moment.
"Luckily, we're starting to talk about it now. We had the first good steps earlier this week with the minister's announcement – probably not far enough and not quick enough in my opinion."
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn unveiled his Action Plan on Bullying earlier this week with a budget of €500,000 to fund projects. Monica Monahan, president of the NABC, said she hopes their schools' programme will be able to benefit from this fund.
Mr Pugsley said the momentum to tackle bullying is gathering pace and praised the Irish Independent's 'Stop Cyber Bullies' campaign for shining a light on the issue.
"We have to get open and honest with ourselves. We have to grasp the nettle and start talking about it everywhere. And it's not just a case of educating the kids, it's educating ourselves as parents on how to talk to the kids, how the teachers should talk to the kids.
"We've known about this problem for 10, 12 years or even longer and there's been a lot of research done on it out there, so why are we holding back? We need to do something positive, on the ground now," he urged.
He said the NABC programme is not about a "blame game" but educating people – both victims and bullies – and "bringing everyone on board".
"I'm very excited to see the programme and they've done a great job. We really desperately need it out there now," he added.